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Minister English Names Geraldine Boylan and Louise Kenny SFI Joint Researchers of the Year 2015

Kilkenny, 3rd November – Minister for Skills, Research and Innovation, Damien English TD, this evening announced Professor Geraldine Boylan and Professor Louise Kenny as the Science Foundation Ireland Joint Researchers of the Year 2015 at the SFI Science Summit, to an audience of 300 researchers in attendance.  Professor Geraldine Boylan and Professor Louise Kenny the joint Directors of INFANT, are global leaders in reducing the burden of disease and disability associated with the period just before and after birth.

Presenting the award to the Professors, Minister English, said: “Professors Boylan and Kenny are leading the way in perinatal care and research and they thoroughly deserve to receive this award for the outstanding work they have done and continue to do.  The Professors and their team at the INFANT Centre in Cork are developing solutions to address some of the most commonplace complications of pregnancy and the most significant problems for new-born babies.  Both of the Professors bring insights from their clinical practice to research, translate scientific advances to the bedside and cotside and are opening up markets for companies who now appreciate the scale of unmet clinical need.  I sincerely congratulate them both on becoming this year’s Science Foundation Ireland Researchers of the Year.”

Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government of Ireland, added: “We are delighted to recognise Professor Boylan and Professor Kenny as our first ever joint and first female recipients of the Researcher of the Year accolade.  It is particular apt that they are the first female recipients; INFANT is unique in that it’s being led by two women and encouraging junior female faculty at the centre is a priority for both of them.  The two Professors have developed a happy,  passionate and cohesive team of young and bright researchers from diverse backgrounds.  I am delighted to be able to honour them both with this prestigious award and I wish them both continued success into the future.” 

Professors Kenny and Boylan have been close friends and colleagues for nearly a decade. For the last two years they have co-directed INFANT, Ireland's first and only perinatal research centre. 

Accepting their award, Professor Geraldine Boylan and Professor Louise Kenny said: “We are delighted to receive this award.  Every single day, somewhere in the world over 800 young women die as a direct result of pregnancy or childbirth, and in the same 24 hour period over 15,000 babies will be stillborn or will die within days of birth. Many millions more who survive will live with long-term disability. Perinatal research has lagged behind other research areas both in terms of investment and consequently in terms of progress. The support of Science Foundation Ireland, University College Cork, and the Irish government is helping our outstanding team at INFANT to reverse this trend.  It is hugely satisfying to see the results of our work making a difference to real women and babies’ lives on a daily basis."

Geraldine Boylan is a scientist, Professor of Neonatal Physiology and a world-leading expert in newborn brain function. Her pioneering work in this area has been instrumental in developing the first ever medical device for automated seizure detection in newborns.  She is currently leading an international clinical trial of this device which as been funded by a Strategic Translational Award from the Wellcome Trust.   

Professor Louise Kenny is Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and a consultant obstetrician & gynaecologist.  She has a long standing clinical and research interest in disorders of pregnancy and is a world-leading expert in pre-eclampsia, a major killer of pregnant women.  Professor Kenny has developed an early pregnancy screening test for this condition which is currently the focus of a large in a multi-centre FP7 funded trial.  Earlier this year Professor Kenny became the first Irish researcher to win a major award from the American Heart Association for her work on screening for pre-eclampsia.  

Both Louise and Geraldine are passionate about attracting women to science and hope that their success will  inspire young women contemplating a career in science or medicine.  

The SFI Researcher of the Year award recognises the accomplishments of an SFI funded researcher who has contributed significantly to the Irish research community in their career and/or who has achieved exceptional research outputs in the last 12 months. The previous recipients include Professor Barry Smyth, UCD; Professor Fergus Shanahan, UCC; Professor Michael Coey, TCD; Professor Jonathan Coleman, TCD; Professor Jean Pierre Colinge (formerly) Tyndall National Institute and Professor Luke O'Neill, TCD.